Lawmakers vote to override Robert Bentley veto, enact General Fund budget

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Rebuking Gov. Robert Bentley‘s veto for the first time in 2016, Alabama lawmakers voted Tuesday to enact the General Fund budget the governor previously rejected over Medicaid funding.

Bentley vetoed the budget last month for being $85 million short of the money needed to maintain services and reimbursement rates in the state’s Medicaid program, warning lawmakers the state would not be able to provide basic medical services to children and the elderly without the additional funding.

“As one of the lowest state-funded Medicaid agencies in the country, the Alabama Medicaid Agency focuses services to those most in needed: our low-income children, pregnant women, elderly and people with disabilities,” Bentley wrote in his veto message to lawmakers. “Without additional resources, we simply cannot fulfill our constitutionally and statutorily mandated duties.”

Lawmakers ignored Bentley’s strong words overriding his gubernatorial veto with a majority vote — the Senate, 22-10, followed by the House, 71-24.

Bentley, however, wasn’t the only one with harsh criticism over the approved budget.

Kimble Forrister, executive director of Arise Citizens’ Policy Project – a nonprofit advocacy group for low-income Alabamians – said General Fund budget would force “devastating Medicaid cuts that could force many hospitals to close and lead many pediatricians to leave the state.”

“We can’t build a stronger Alabama by taking a sledgehammer to the foundation of our state’s health care system. But that’s just what this inadequate General Fund budget would do,” said Forrister in a statement after Tuesday’s override votes.

Bentley has hinted he may call lawmakers back for a special session to tackle the Medicaid shortfall.

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